Trembling hands and anxiety-stricken eyes are all I could see in the vanity mirror before me. It was a never-ending feeling. But it was also a never-ending process of shrugging it off, of pretending none of this scares me.
I took turns in using random beauty products. Each glide of the mascara made my lashes longer and added life into the dead night that my eyes resembled. Dark shameless spots of imperfection hid beneath the concealer and yet another shade of eyeshadow made my eyes appear livelier than my life would ever be. Lastly, my parted lips welcomed the hue of red lipstick. Gone was its pale color and now, it was stained cherry wine.
It’s ironic how the mirror in front of me said pretty but I still felt ugly. It only proves how satisfaction and self-love aren’t defined by a mere reflection but start from within. No matter how hard I try, that seems unattainable.
The short length of my tight red dress revealed my thick thighs and lower butt. My shoulders and a portion of my chest were bare in its low neckline and thin straps. An ample amount of flesh was revealing enough to attract the beasts that roar and drool in lust. I am a prey to feed their libido, a taste to their hungry and deadly desires.
The clock struck 12 and announced my inevitable doom. I never get used to this. I am a willing victim but the fear whenever I do this is still making me shudder in my knees.
My high heels click-clacked through the floor. There were endless sighs before my wobbly fingers gripped the doorknob open. An enormous and loud feast welcomed the harlot. Flickering colors of red light, rumbling music, a large stage with poles in the middle, and faces unknown to me flooded my eyes.
Deafening cheers amid the loud music echoed when I stopped at the platform. The people before me are worshipping the queens of their sexual desires. Their eyes are glimmering in adoration but would never show the hidden instinct of wrath.
The sound of cheers became consuming. A lump of regret grew in my throat and suffocated me like a never-ending choke. River of fear and self-pity flowed on my pink-tinted cheeks. Shame crawled on every layer of my skin with each stare from the crowd.
Starting through the thighs and hips, I moved sexually, mimicking a vixen wagging her tail. Each second is a tease to their desires, the kind to make them want a taste of my flesh.
Half through the dance, I was demanded to go towards a particular table. I did as I was told. Freedom has long abandoned me and he had taken dignity with him.
An old man smiled at me. His hair was all grey and his forehead was wrinkled. The evidence of age was plastered in his face and his fortunes speak loud by the accessories that glimmered golden in his wrist and neck.
His lustful eyes lingered through me. His wide grin resembled a beast in disguise that was ready to devour. I stood in front of him, still like a flightless prey.
He pulled me closer to his lap. His mouth, devoid of color, met my lipstick-stained lips. I grimaced because he tasted cigars and expensive vodka. Cold and wrinkled hands traveled my body. I flinched when his hands searched places beneath my dress. His mouth mounted to my chest then back to my lips. I prevented my gasps of disgust, and through it all, I tasted salt beneath the kiss. Tears fell silently from my eyes.
Every second tormented me. Every touch made me want to protest. I wanted him to stop, I wanted to run away but I didn't. The protests and screams were all swallowed up and turned into a silent sob instead.
When he was happy, when he was satisfied and fully pleasured, he told me to leave. I walked away and left regrets and self-pity behind, and brought only a pack of cash with me.
I have so long wanted to escape but the privilege of choice isn't for anyone. You see, sex work is a choice but the exploitation that comes along with it is never a choice.
"I told you to stop doing it.." The faint note of hysteria in his voice made my heart clench.
My eyes trailed the golden hair and the blood-like lips of a boy who didn't seem to age by time. With his ethereal beauty, he seemed eternally youthful.
"I'm not. I'm not doing it anymore." I searched his eyes and tried to convince him.
His pair of orbs were glinting with upcoming tears. I held his cheeks. My frail fingers felt tender against the hard structure of his prominent jaw and cheekbones. Our heavy breaths became in sync like a sad yet beautiful melody.
"I'm fine. I have escaped already." I told him with a sense of pride.
His tears streamed down his cheeks. I drew his face closer to mine as he shut his eyes in an attempt to prevent the burst of his emotions. I hate seeing him like this-- vulnerable. It makes me want to hold him, to protect him from all the hurt the world would throw, no matter how bruised I am too. I would never want to hurt him. More so, see him cry because of me.
"I'm all okay now. We can leave and be happy." I whispered ardently.
"Where do you want to go?" A ghost of a smile painted across his lips, sending me beaming too. His smile is my smile too. His happiness, my happiness.
"To Busan, perhaps? To your good old summer house?"
"We'll leave, then."
"Really?" I asked breathily. The excitement conquered my heart.
It was late when I reached Busan the next day. Near its breathtaking coastline, the waves are forever reaching the shore and the faded crescent moon prowled in a corner, a perfect match to the crystal-like glimmers atop the pristine waters.
He came and looked at me with the fondness of the summer sky despite the current air around us, cold and ruthless. The warmth of the 5 am sun is nearing yet it seems forever unreachable.
"The sky is pretty, right?" I broke the silence.
"Yeah. But you're prettier."
"Oh, quit the jokes."
"Yes, you are the radiance of the stars and all the cosmic bodies combined."
My lips curved for the sudden use of metaphors.
“You’re good with words, aren’t you? You should be a poet.”
“I’m only good with those artful words when I’m with you. It takes such beauty to bring out the poet in me.”
"Well, I’m really happy that you’re here." I gazed up at him.
His lips raised for a subtle smile. His cinnamon eyes that always had depths of utter coldness were shadowed with softness.
"We should grab a ramyeon and some soju. I know the old Karaoke house, it's still alive. We could get drunk for a while then sing there. Like old times! I remember you singing to a k-pop girl group's song. What is it again?"
"As if it's your last." He laughed at the reminiscence.
"Majimakcheoreom." I sang.
"What do you say?"
"Yeah. That'd be fun. But it’s four a.m, for God’s sake, let’s grab a coffee instead.”
I laughed in surrender.
“Sure, ramyeon and coffee it is.”
He offered a hand which I gladly accepted. We trailed the long stretch of the shore in entwined hands. The cradles of the waves crashing through the coast were our music. Before us, the haze of the waking sun made the salt air a bit warmer.
Half through the walk when he stopped on his tracks, making me halt too.
"But you know tomorrow has to come, right?" He asked with a bit of concern.
I nodded and gave a reassuring smile.
"Of course. I know."
Tomorrow has to come and this will all be gone.
One v e r n o n Catherine Jung is a girl that resembles all the beautiful words in perfectly woven poetry. Her raven hair cascades down her dainty collar bones like an evening in winter, a dark cloak atop snow-like porcelain skin, so bright and ever radiant that no blade would dare scratch it. Her eyes, don't sparkle like the stars nor they resemble galaxies. It mirrored a dark hole, an endless pit of mystery and darkness, far from any heavenly body. I’m never a fan of heavenly bodies anyway. The same mystic pair of orbs rendered me breathless when they darted at me. The high school hallways are always busy first thing in the morning but the students pacing back and forth all faded into the background when she came into view. I can't help but won
TWO v e r n o n Days felt running for a long time have gone since I last saw Catherine. I am to blame. I have been skipping my classes because I am in a very shitty state of mind to attend them. The only thing that got me here again today is her. Since that day in the lab, I was never the same. Her features were so vivid in my memory and I’m seeing her even in my sleep, like that drug you tasted for the first time and you couldn’t get it out into your senses. I’m on the first stage of being intoxicated, the part where you get a taste and you want more. As for her, I got a glimpse and selfishly, I want more. More than just stolen glances, a few exchanges of conversation, and forced formalities in between test tubes and flasks. More than just lab partners. Str
v e r n o n She had a boyfriend. I should've known. It’s so stupid how I tried to hold someone else's precious possession. But you can’t really blame me. I mean, that’s Catherine, after all. I thought all she ever does is study and be a daddy’s girl. But then again, she’s pretty and popular. She has guys lining up for her. She could get a boyfriend easily. Guess it’s another misconception about her. "Never thought Vernon with a black eye would be so funny. You look like shit, man. Have you seen a mirror?" Mingyu, who couldn't be of better help to my already sour mood kept on spitting nonsense beside me. "And I never thought you'd actually pass out with just one punch!" He stifled a laugh. He kept on replaying
v e r n o n "When the hell is he coming?” JB turned harshly to Mark. He couldn’t keep himself from fidgeting in impatience and agitation. I inhaled sharply and collected my own restraint. The two continued to bicker as my eyes wandered in nervousness. I’ve done this a lot of times but even when you are used to vile acts, your conscience would always bug you like the first time you decided to pursue evil. Unlit light posts make the lower part of the suburb almost desolate. Empty establishments tower over the dark streets and dangerous people of the like wander around. The homeless. The drug addicts. The gangsters. The juvenile delinquents. They roam around like they rule the area. It resembled a hell hole. It’s
c a t h e r i n e He saw me. The existence of Vernon was never known to me. Maybe because I never paid much attention to anyone. Sure, I've known him as this good-looking guy who resembled young Leonardo Dicaprio with his chiseled jaw and golden locks. But his name or who he was, never really crossed my mind. I ignore everyone unless they have anything to do with me. Although I’ve heard a few stories about him, I never bothered caring. They say he was trouble. He does drugs and has a bad temper so he’s always into street fights, but I honestly thought he looked nothing of the like. But then again, it never mattered what I thought of him because we were never close. c a t h e r i n e To go somewhere with him is as equally interesting as it is unbelievable. I eyed him for a while as I sank into my own curiosity. He sat there, nonchalant, eyes never leaving mine. "I-I don't want to." I stuttered for an answer that lacked conviction as it should. I'd rather be alone. I was certain of it. Vernon seemed to measure my thoughts from across the table before nodding like it never really mattered. "Yeah. Cool." He shrugged casually. There was this imaginary gap between us that had begun to stretch wider. An ocean of indifference took him drifting farther within the second. "Actually,
c a t h e r i n e To go somewhere with him is as equally interesting as it is unbelievable. I eyed him for a while as I sank into my own curiosity. He sat there, nonchalant, eyes never leaving mine. "I-I don't want to." I stuttered for an answer that lacked conviction as it should. I'd rather be alone. I was certain of it. Vernon seemed to measure my thoughts from across the table before nodding like it never really mattered. "Yeah. Cool." He shrugged casually. There was this imaginary gap between us that had begun to stretch wider. An ocean of indifference took him drifting farther within the second. "Actually,
v e r n o n The sun rays grew torrid and woke me from my slumber. My head still bore a mild ache when I got up. While adjusting to my senses, I remembered Catherine. I brought her here. A sudden jolt of panic rose from my chest. I searched the rooftop and found her leaning by its small balcony. She had fallen asleep and a romance novel laid on her lap. I sat beside her and found myself immediately drawn to her angelic state. It felt surreal, to have her this close, to have her come with me. I kept telling myself earlier that this is true. Not some drug-driven beautiful dream. My headache was so cruel, its claws were mercilessly breaking crevices into my skull. I hated every second of it. How I am not able to bring her to a nice place and could not give her
c a t h e r i n e "Where have you been yesterday? Why were you absent?" Lisa suspiciously questioned me the next morning, as if I had gone somewhere and did something secretive. Although that wasn’t entirely false. She scooted all of her straight blonde hair to one shoulder, leaned on her locker, and watched me as I busied myself with mine. "I.. just wasn't feeling well." "You never skip classes even if you're already dying." Lisa and I had been classmates since grade 11. We're close but she's friends with everyone so it's hard to tell my level of importance. I never considered her my best friend. I know she feels the same way about me. I’m famous and all but I never really maintained a huge number of friends or had